Robert Estrin - piano expert
Visit Robert's Website:

Sight Reading - Part 2

Useful tips for improving sight reading, from concert pianist Robert Estrin

Released on May 8, 2013

Share |
Post a comment, question or special request:

Add your name below:

Add your email below: (will not be displayed or shared)

For verification purposes, please enter the word MUSIC in the field below


Teo on June 7, 2014 @11:04 am PST
Nice tips! I noticed that when I played ALONG WITH my teacher, some performance pressure kicked in and I played much better, or maybe I just HAD TO clean up some messy parts because I didn't want to be embarrassed! I'll do more reading with him. Great helps there buddy! Wishing you the best, Teo
Robert - host, on June 9, 2014 @12:39 pm PST
Playing with good musicians raises the level of your playing. You should strive to play with your teacher and other accomplished players as much as you can.
Josey Junior on October 25, 2013 @11:13 pm PST
i'm teaching myself classical guitar. I've learnt to identify maj and minor intervals and other intervals up to an octave. my approach is to name the interval and then apply a fretboard pattern to play it. but what about higher intervals , like 10ths and more? you get them in classical music. any tips?
or don't bother with that, just study it before playing the piece so i know where the notes are? my current approach is to name the interval size and type (eg major or minor) and then apply the fretboard pattern.
There isn't much info on this stuff on the net, or no pattern for these intervals on the net.
Thanks in advance.
Robert Estrin - host, on October 26, 2013 @11:45 am PST
Figuring out notes by interval is an important component to note reading. However, if you learn the absolute pitch of notes simply by recognizing their place on the staff and on your instrument, you will increase your reading speed. So, I suggest studying notes above the staff possibly even using flash cards. Then work on locating notes in the higher octaves on your instrument.

Another approach that could be helpful is to figure out intervals above an octave such as 10ths or 11ths as an octave plus a 3rd, or an octave plus a 4th. Then simply find the location on your guitar relative to the octave position.
Maritza on August 24, 2013 @10:03 am PST
What is a Major and what is a Minor?
Robert - host, on August 26, 2013 @11:26 am PST
I will make a video explaining major minor tonality.
Ruth * VSM MEMBER * on July 3, 2013 @3:12 pm PST
Patricia Bartell in Spokane aw is an amazing performer and brilliant accordion teacher.she even got the Trophe Mondale to Spokane. She would be a great resource.
I really enjoy, and am helped
By your videos.
Thank you
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on July 3, 2013 @4:36 pm PST
Thank you Ruth for your suggestions, we'll keep your reference in mind! I am also glad to know you are enjoying these videos.
Ellen * VSM MEMBER * on May 22, 2013 @12:55 pm PST
I am really enjoying your podcasts. I was trained as a classical pianist and violinist (always reading off of sheet music) and became a good sight reader but lack the ability to do improvisation, play by ear-without sheet music. I have recently gotten a keyboard synthesizer with many voices. Are you experienced with the keyboard and improv? Can you do a video on how to do that?
Robert - host, on May 22, 2013 @4:49 pm PST
Here is a video I produced a while back on improvisation:
Ellen * VSM MEMBER * on May 22, 2013 @6:34 pm PST
Thank you for such a quick reply. I will be sure to listen to it.
Joseph P Grima on May 15, 2013 @3:00 pm PST
Very interesting videos. I am an ACCORDION player do you have videos for this nice instrument ?
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on May 15, 2013 @4:06 pm PST
Hi Joseph and thank you for your posting, I am glad to know you enjoy these videos!

We don't have currently any experts taking care of the Accordion specifically, but we will look for someone! Do you happen to know anybody? Thank you again.
Joseph P Grima on May 16, 2013 @3:18 pm PST
Thanks Fabrizio, I see some on youtube.but yours are more professional and more accurate to the point! Thank you again.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on May 16, 2013 @3:51 pm PST
That's great to know! We'll see if we can find some "Accordion Expert" available to collaborate with us. Thank you for the request and keep up the great learning!
Robert - host, on May 15, 2013 @5:05 pm PST
Glad you are enjoying the videos! I play many different keyboard instruments, and French horn. However, I have no experience with accordion.
Sandra on May 14, 2013 @6:30 am PST
What do you think of as you're reading and going from one note or chord to the next? Do you recognize, say, fourths or fifths or do you notice the intervals between one note and the next?
Robert - host, on May 14, 2013 @10:52 am PST
Excellent point Sandra! Yes, indeed reading by interval is extremely helpful particularly when playing notes on ledger lines far from the staff. A great part of reading is the relative position of notes.
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on May 9, 2013 @9:10 am PST
You've made wise, encouraging, and most of all "liberating" comments. I think that the notion that you have to hit every note is what intimidates most musicians who are not adept at sight reading.
I know that has been my problem. I plan to practice what you preach.
jen D on May 9, 2013 @3:44 am PST
Thank you ... this was most instructive and helpful... I look forward to trying the coordinated and positive approach technique
Lindsay Holiday * VSM MEMBER * on May 9, 2013 @1:09 am PST
Thank you so much for your little tips. I recently started playing bass clarinet with a hormonie orchestra. First time playing with them the sight reading was very hard, because I am a professional singer the most important thiing is keeping the music flowing and not panicking, also studding my parts privetly and getting to know the diffilcults passages before rehearsal. Lindsay Holiday
Jones on May 8, 2013 @9:20 pm PST
I enjoy your wonderful instructions. Indeed very valuable.
Ryan on May 8, 2013 @7:34 pm PST
What a surprise! Thank you for your comments! These are the same thing my wife says. She plays the flute and I the violin.
christopher Slevin * VSM MEMBER * on May 8, 2013 @7:08 pm PST
ThanksRobert for your insights.
I am told I sight read very well, however its only on pieces that I have heard played before so I am accused of playing by ear. That's not true because I can't play without the score right? Don't even ask me about counting - I was always bottom in math and now in my seventies have not improved. numbers and measures remain a mystery.
Robert - host, on May 9, 2013 @10:17 am PST
Using your ears when sightreading is vital whether you have heard the piece or not. Knowing what the music is supposed to sound like is definitely helpful. In fact, just being familiar with a particular composer's music makes it easier to read that composer! You should be able to read pieces you haven't heard before, but you can certainly enjoy sightreading familiar sounding pieces!
Fred Lilienkamp * VSM MEMBER * on May 8, 2013 @11:38 am PST
And here is a completely different situation. I also play tenor banjo in a NE Contradance band. The players include people at all levels from beginner to expert at playing the dance tunes. Our leader, Lois ,is a great fiddle player/ violinist. Sometimes the dances go quickly. Lois advises the other fiddlers - (there can be 4 - 6 others). "If you can't get in all the notes in a measure, play every other note. Just play whatever you play in rythym " There are dancers out there. They hear the notes, but they feel the rythym and that's what they move their bodies to. The nice thing about a fiddle section is that if some of the fiddlers (or anyone else) miss some of the notes some of the time - we never miss all the notes all the time! If you are alone, you are more exposed. But if you are accompanying someone, a lot more attention is given to the soloist. The important thing is as you say, just keep together.
Fred Lilienkamp * VSM MEMBER * on May 8, 2013 @11:25 am PST
I totally agree, Robert. I am a guitarist. What youu said has applied to my playing in a jazz big band with 15 members. Keeping eyes on the music, and making a concerted effort to track timing has kept me in sync with the band. Looking down at the guitar neck can knock me off track. Not counting measures where I'm out can get me pretty lost. The tough part has been where a big jump in hand position is required. Those are the places that need to be practiced. I think your observations are pretty universal. When we go through a chart the first time, well it can be a train wreck. As long as everyone concentrates on basics like timing, repeats, rests, we can at least get through it. The horns are lucky in that way, they don't have to look at their instrument. But our bass player and I can get flammboozled if our eyes leave the music or we are not counting like crazy. Playing with other people the most important thing is to keep together and get through the piece. Sure I miss some notes, or even a lot of notes the first time. But my role is a rythym player. that is what is the most important. Same for the bass. Unfortunately we have no pianist. If we did, they would be in the same boat along with me and the bass.
Gary Powell * VSM MEMBER * on May 8, 2013 @11:13 am PST
Thank you, Robert. Good advice for sure. I also think your advice echoes the most recent findings in the learning sciences. My best to you.
Elizabeth * VSM MEMBER * on May 8, 2013 @10:34 am PST
Right on! I am a poor sight reader so this was very helpful!
I used to watch other pianists pick up a piece of music and play through it reasonably well and wonder how on earth they could do it. However, I would also think to myself, "Tsk, tsk, but look at all the wrong notes he or she's hitting. How sloppy." BUT, these pianists did what you suggested and seemed to be able to play anything put in front of them. I was so envious.
Thank you!
Jim Conlon * VSM MEMBER * on May 8, 2013 @10:24 am PST
Very good and informative. While I am an aging musician (classical guitar now) and with very limited reading ability, I did get what was being said.
Thank you
Questions? Problems? Contact Us.